At dinner recently in Tallahassee, Mayor John Marks, along with marketing honchos Karen Moore and Ron Sachs, filled my ears with tales of the renewed vibrancy in the capital city. The gains aren’t coming from state government, but from for-profit enterprises, innovative young entrepreneurs and spinoffs from the area’s educational institutions.
In preparation for a major focus on Tallahassee in Florida Trend’s June issue, they explained that the north Florida lifestyle maintains a nice balance between the government-legal-banking-health care economy and the area’s outdoor assets, and they suggested I visit Wakulla Springs just 20 minutes south.
The next morning I drove down State Road 61 to Wakulla Springs State Park. What a gorgeous place. The nature trails, picnic grounds, small lodge and swimming area are all beautiful.
It got me to thinking about all of Florida, which is the topic of this magazine. This month, we present our Economic Yearbook for the 45th consecutive year, providing insight and facts about population, income and growth for all of Florida’s 67 counties.
As the editors opine, the economy in almost all of our counties is indeed looking up. Home sales and prices are up, construction cranes are seen again in many locales and tourism is popping.
Just as Tallahassee has different facets, Florida as a whole is far from monolithic. In some places, our state is largely Hispanic; in others, the population is defined by snowbirds and retirees. Some areas are agricultural, while biomedical research dominates others. Tourism matters from end to end. And virtually every area has its natural beauty.
In general, Florida business leaders are optimistic yet still concerned about the impact of decisions at the national level.
This month we also look at wealth in Florida. You will see articles about the richest Floridians among us. In which ritzy neighborhoods do they live? Where do their charitable contributions go? And just who are these folks?
The list of the 25 wealthiest brought some surprises. While I’ve certainly heard of Micky Arison and Wayne Huizenga, others were unfamiliar. And I was shocked that it takes $1.2 billion to even make this list, meaning that others with hundreds of millions to their name did not make the cut.
How did they climb to this level? No surprise here: They either started a company, or they inherited great wealth. And they all find Florida a great place to call home.
If you’re not in that billionaires club, you still need to protect your financial future through strong planning. Dozens of major banks and trust companies have followed the money trail to Florida with extensive operations in investments, legal guidance and intergenerational planning. We asked some of those experts to offer up investment advice for our readers. You can find out what they have to say later this month.
In February I was in Bonita Springs for the annual Celebration of Reading, a literacy fundraiser and friend-raiser produced by the Barbara Bush Foundation and several generations of the Bush family. Florida Trend is among the sponsors.
Mrs. Bush is a warm motherly type who proudly talked about her great-granddaughter and two more “greats” on the way. While she enthusiastically has supported her husband and sons in their political endeavors, the sense is she’s done with all that and puts her focus on family . . . and literacy.
The program supports literacy for young adults so they can guide their children as they learn English in school. Mrs. Bush says quite correctly, “Parents are a child’s first teacher.” Please consider this group as you plan charitable sponsorships.
— Andy Corty